Friday, December 11, 2015

A Step and a Half Up from a Buck

In the 1930 Conklin catalog, the company’s “dollar pencils” are shown on the same page as Conklin’s not-quite-as-nice, but-still-pretty-good line:

The proper name for this series, pen collectors will tell you, is the “Three-fifty” series, named for the price of the pen – $3.50.   Even in Alfonso Mur’s book, the pencils are referred to as “their corresponding pencils,” but in the 1930 catalog, Conklin does give them a more proper name:

These were the Conklin “Two-Fifty Pencils.”  Note that both the side clip and ringtop models were all the same price – $2.50.  While many of the colors tracked those of the Endura line, the Two-Fifty pencils came in two premium colors to collectors: the black and orange, which collectors refer to as “Halloween,” and the cream and black, which collectors have nicknamed “Zebra.”

Correction:  a number of readers emailed me about that last sentence . . . that cream and black is not what was referred to as "Zebra."  See for pictures of what was.

Now here’s the thing: the two cream and black examples shown in this picture really do look cream and black, rather than zebra-ish.  While I’ve seen pens in a definite black and white, I haven’t seen one of the pencils in that brighter color.  One of the pencils pictured on page 134 of Alfonso Mur’s book looks a little lighter than these.  Suffice to say I can say with confidence that all of these are Two-Fifty Pencils in cataloged colors, but I’m not sure the cream and black ones live up to the nickname.

Note also that the ringtop has a price sticker consistent with the catalog:

All of the foregoing is by way of introduction.  Conklin offered another series that isn’t pictured in the catalog, but it is described.  It combined elements of the Dollar Pencils and the Two-Fifty Pencils, but one plus two fifty equalled much, much more than three fifty:

Note that this hand-painted ringtop shares all of the mechanics and trim of the Two-Fifty line, but rendered in Dollar Pencil blue plastic:

On page 11 of the catalog, there is a reference to what this probably was:

A “Decorated Pyroxylin” pencil, and “modernistic” would appear to be an accurate description.  Note, however, that these were cataloged – at least in this catalog – in black and green, but not in blue.  Since Alfonso has two blue pens and a blue pencil pictured in his book, I think Conklin either made that color in a different year, or simply didn’t catalog it at all.

1 comment:

David Nishimura said...

Just to clarify, the color referred to by collectors as "zebra" isn't the more common cream and black shown in the pictures. "Zebra" is a completely different material -- black and bright, opaque white. I've had both the pens and the matching pencils in this color.